A large segment of both active and planned projects went into a holding pattern during the pandemic. Uncertainty brought a number of efforts to a halt, with executives unsure what their business needs might look like down the road. Disrupted operations led other initiatives to go on hiatus, as employees switched to home offices and entire workflows had to be redesigned. General unavailability—of people, materials, and money—caused a large chunk of the remaining projects to hit pause.
But now companies are getting their initiatives back into gear and some project teams are facing a crush of work after a long lapse. Putting those efforts back on an active path takes careful planning. Project managers need to be mindful about potential pitfalls that may appear when projects come out of hibernation.
We’ve put together a handful of common mistakes organizations make when restarting paused projects. Before your team dusts off the next initiative in line, consider if you’re in danger of beginning on the wrong foot.
Agreeing to unrealistic timelines
Your team may be excited to get back into a work environment that’s a little closer to normal, but don’t let your eagerness railroad you into project schedules you can’t meet. When an initiative has been on the shelf for a while, it’s possible the executive group may want to make up for lost time and push for an unachievable completion date.
Can you realistically compress portions of the project’s timeline and do you have the funding, resources, and people power to make that happen? If so, great. However, just because a project was originally scheduled to complete in a certain month—or even a certain quarter—that doesn’t mean it’s still a reachable target.
Be prudent as you assess timelines for projects that are destined for a reboot and set your team up for success by establishing realistic dates for key milestones.
Restarting without sufficient funding
Companies are increasingly asking lines of business to do more with less. Your budget for a restarted project may have been appropriate before the pandemic wrought havoc on the supply chain as well as the workforce, but chances are good your budget figures no longer align with the current environment.
Begin by evaluating the approved budget and identify where gaps may exist. If you know that material or labor costs have increased, gather fresh estimates. Other expenditures may have also changed, such as costs for travel to or from areas where transportation options haven’t bounced back. Fees to extend permit windows or comply with new regulatory requirements should be taken into consideration, too. With updated budget figures in hand, your executive team can determine how to arrange funding or where the project may be scaled back if the company’s financial position can’t support the increase.
Limping along with a skeleton crew
If your headcount or the competencies available within your project team have been diminished, be forthright about what you’re missing and what you need to successfully restart and execute the project. It might take an expansion of the original staffing plan or additional funding to bring in temporary employees or contractors to help you tackle key activities. Another option is to revise the project’s scope or timeline to better match your current workforce capabilities.
What you don’t want to do is become mired in a project that your existing group can’t possibly complete or overwhelm your team to the point their performance or morale falters. Instead, work with your senior staff to develop a plan that either adjusts the project or augments your staffing situation so everyone is comfortable moving ahead.